Anuhea Jenkins has made a name for herself as an island reggae singer, but she says her career could have taken a completely different direction.
When she was growing up, the Hawaii native who goes by just her first name professionally, always loved to sing but thought she would follow in the footsteps of her father, grandmother and great-grandmother and go into teaching. She also wanted to be an actress, and possibly a broadcast journalist.
She started doing gigs in coffee shops when she was 19 and gained more confidence, and for years she had watched her aunt perform as part of Na Leo Pilimehana, the popular female Hawaiian music group.
“So right around that same time...I realized ‘wow maybe I am good enough, maybe I am good enough to do music,’” she said.
Five albums and two Na Hoku Hanohano awards later (the awards are considered the local version of the Grammys), Anuhea is a firmly established singer/songwriter who describes her style as “definitely, like, island reggae, pop, R&B. A combo of all of that.”
Among her biggest musical influences are R&B artist Alicia Keys, neo soul artist India.Arie, Hawaiian music icon Jack Johnson and reggae superstar Bob Marley. She explained that, for her, reggae – the style of music that originated in Jamaica and which has spread around the world – takes various forms, including a form that’s unique to Hawaii.
“I feel like there’s different types of reggae,” the 30-year-old said in an interview with ABC News. “There’s California reggae, Jamaican reggae -- which we all love in Hawaii, but there’s a new kind that we kind of have named Jawaiian -- it’s like Jamaica-Hawaiian...that’s what I think when I reference island music.”
Her song “Simple Love Song” exemplifies that style of island reggae, prominently features the sound of the ukulele but with a hard bass guitar. Another of her original hits, “Higher Than the Clouds,” has a more prominent reggae sound with its heavy bass beat. Her original songs -- including a collaboration with reggae star Tarrus Riley -- plus her covers of contemporary hits and reggae classics have earned her millions of views on YouTube.
Anuhea’s music has come a long way since her first recorded song, “Charismatic S.O.B.”
“I think I’m kind of leaning more toward island reggae now that I did in the beginning, to be honest...I think I’m not afraid to write songs with that island vibe anymore. I think in the beginning I was like, maybe steering -- keeping in contemporary ‘cause I was afraid it wasn’t going to take, off but now I’m just kind of doing what I feel a little bit more,” she said.
And she’s still spreading her musical wings.
“I actually love country music and I’m writing kind of a lot of country-ish tunes, too,” she said.
The birth of her son two years ago means she cannot tour as much as she used to but she makes it work.
“I take my son with me as often as I can,” she said, adding that now that he is a little older “it’s a little more difficult so it does limit me as far as touring extensively, but I usually have shows in Hawaii, almost every weekend I have something going on, whether it’s private or public and then I usually do two to three, you know, multiple-week tours on the mainland.”
She counts on a fan base all over the world and stays in touch with them on social media.
“Social media has helped me a lot,” she said, adding that has accounts on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram -- and now Snapchat. “I try to keep up.”
“Good Morning America” is featuring the work of Hawaiian artists as part of our 2016 Summer Concert Series sponsored by King’s Hawaiian.
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